This is my tattered, splattered, well worn, cookbook. I started it when I first arrived in France. I carried it with me everywhere...
One of the first things I learned when I moved to France was: Cooking was going to be a challenge because measurements followed the metric system and the ovens went by numbers or by Celsius.
No biggie if you are a number type person. But if you are like me were numbers tumble upside down and backwards and walk away... well let's just say cooking was a challenge (and I won't even start about the language.)
I bought a plain thick notebook with 250 pages at Monoprix (a large chain supermarket in France,) and wrote down every little delicious thing I saw or tasted. No matter if I was at my Mother-in-law's, or at a friend's house, or at a restaurant, or even at a bookstore. I wrote down recipes, ideas, tastes, flavor combinations and whatever little tidbit that could help me whip up a meal.
My homemade cook book is stuffed full like a tofu turkey. Not a single page, nor space remains empty. It contains savoring memories of dinners, lunches, cocktails that I have had in France. Recipes gathered along the way.
Of course in France a baguette, some cheese, garlic, a couple of eggs whipped up into an omelette, a large leafy salad and a bottle of wine ... a simple feast.
Do you collect recipes?
Thumbing through my twenty something old cookbook is like thumbing through a Roledex. Friend's names appear flashing me back to the their kitchens, listening to their tales on how to cook: Pesto Soup, Eggplant Pate, Leeks with Mustard Sauce, Creme Brulee, Fresh Herb and Goat Cheese Cake, Cheese Souffle, Chocolate Mousse... Friends from France and friends back in the States, metric, cups, farine/flour Sucre/Sugar all mingled together in my scrapped together cook book.
Before the internet, and when calling home was over $5 a minute (France to the States) finding recipes and learning about cooking was an expensive task. Calling home to ask about a recipe always took longer than a one minute phone call, "Hi, Mom. Hey what is the recipe for Sweet bread?" Sometimes when I received the phone bill I wondered why I didn't just fly home... it would have been cheaper.
My cookbook has dripped sauce dots, dusting flour, chocolate fingerprints, yellowed scotch tape, and cutouts from magazines. Each and every speck is a jewel reminding me how far I have come from the days of being lost at sea in the land of French cooking.
This image always makes me laugh: The Frustrated Bride. That is how I felt at most dinner table conversations. I was lost in the sea of language, lost at which fork to pick up first, lost as to where to keep my hands, lost amongst a table full of people.
The lifesaver that saved me was the food. I studied it. How it was present, how the table was set, what the hostess served first, what wine was served... That lifesaver was one delightful ride to a shore of lusciousness.
Along the way I met Americans living in France who had adapted American favorites, some with substitutes for food items that could not be found twenty years ago in France. Some with recipes I longed to have and did not have in my scrapped together cookbook. When I see their recipes I taste the nourishing friendship they gave me: Bonnie's Banana Bread, Cynthia's Cheesecake, Jean's Peanut Butter Cookies, Erika's pancakes...
In the beginning when anyone came over from the States to visit and asked me if there was anything they could bring my list mostly included food items. Tortillas, vanilla, peanut butter where on top of the list, so was baking soda and Johnson's baby powder.. I know it isn't a food... but it was up their with chocolate chips.
What is one food you would miss if you could never have it again?